NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that he wishes “we had listened earlier” to what Colin Kaepernick was trying to bring attention to when he began kneeling for the national anthem in 2016.
Goodell was asked on former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho’s video series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” what he would say in a public apology to Kaepernick.
Goodell responded by expressing remorse about the lack of dialogue with the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, saying that the league would have benefited from a conversation with Kaepernick.
“We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue,” Goodell said in the video posted Sunday. “I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did. And we would’ve benefited from that, absolutely.”
Goodell also said that players kneeling is “not about the flag” and that their intentions are being “mischaracterized.”
“These are not people who are unpatriotic. They’re not disloyal. They’re not against our military,” Goodell said. “In fact, many of those guys were in the military, and they’re a military family. And what they were trying to do is exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed. And that misrepresentation of who they were and what they were doing was the thing that really gnawed at me.”
In June, Goodell and the NFL released a video apologizing on behalf of the league for not doing a better job of listening to players’ concerns about racial inequality. Goodell told Acho that he had hopes the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody in May made people realize what players were protesting and that he regrets that the league did not do a better job of supporting those protests.
“… That’s where we should have listened sooner,” Goodell said. “And that’s where we should have been in there with them, understanding and figuring out what we can do as the NFL.”
In an interview with Mike Greenberg for ESPN’s The Return of Sports special in June, Goodell said he supports and encourages teams to sign Kaepernick. The 32-year-old has not played since the 2016 season, when as a member of the 49ers, he kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.